Like so many other twenty-something women, I’ve had a crush on Joseph Gordon-Levitt since his role as Cameron in “10 Ten Things I Hate About You.” Over the years, Gordon-Levitt has proven his versatility, from the lovelorn lead in “(500) Days of Summer” to his role in Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending “Inception.” In “Looper,” Gordon-Levitt continues to branch out, portraying a hit man named Joe. “Looper” takes place in 2042. While the landscape isn’t much different than today’s, time travel now exists. Mob bosses use time travel to tie up loose ends, namely criminals that are past their prime. Rather than bloody their own hands, mobs hire ‘loopers’ like Joe to execute these people. One day, however, Joe realizes that the man he’s been tasked to kill is him, but in 2072. Old Joe is played by Bruce Willis, one of the most celebrated action heroes in the business.
The synopsis may sound confusing, but the movie works well to provide the audience with as much exposition as it can without becoming too convoluted. In fact, we’re reminded by both Willis and Joe’s boss (Jeff Daniels) that dissecting how time travel works will do nothing more than give you a headache. “Looper’s” straightforward attitude about time travel and its plot inconsistencies is the main reason why I enjoyed the film. Rather than build an intricate story structure revolving around time travel, the director, Rian Johnson, uses the concept to examine how choices we make in the present can affect our future. Unlike the most recent “Total Recall,” “Looper” has a sense of humor, particularly the one-liners that Daniels spouts off.
One warning: Do not go into “Looper” thinking that it’s going to be a chase film. While there’s chasing, it’s rarely between Willis and Gordon-Levitt. I’m not saying that the lack of screen time between Willis and Gordon-Levitt hurts the film, but the theatrical trailer misrepresented what the film is really about. Willis’ screen time is limited, and Gordon-Levitt’s Joe takes center stage for most of the film. Normally, I’d welcome this, but his character is incredibly unlikeable for the majority of the film.
For half of the movie, Joe spends his time on a farm owned by Sara (Emily Blunt). Sara and her young son Cid take Joe into their home. I’m not a fan of “Looper’s” misleading trailer, but to reveal too much about Sara and Cid—who are noticeably absent from the trailer— would ruin the surprising last half of the film. I will say that the last half of the film features some pretty cool special effects. Much has been made about Gordon-Levitt’s appearance in the film. Simply put, his prosthetics can be incredibly distracting. At times, Gordon-Levitt looks more like himself than he does Willis. In other instances, he doesn’t resemble Willis in the least bit. Instead, he looks like one of those wax figures in Madame Tussauds’ Wax Museum.
“Looper” does a good job of preventing itself from becoming too over-the-top. Like other good science fiction, “Looper” grounds itself in reality while adding its own futuristic touch.